Entrepreneurship

Inspiring Students to Think Beyond the Traditional Start-Up

The unique WHU Founder Lecture series bringing unicorn founders into the classroom.

For students in the WHU Master programs and particularly the Master in Entrepreneurship Program, many of them will uncover the foundations of starting their own company, such as how to develop a business idea or raise capital. But what does it take to run a company that employs thousands of people or is active in over ten countries around the world? Seeing a gap in traditional business education, WHU alumnus and founder of Audibene Marco Vietor, was quick to initiate the unique WHU Founder Lecture series ‘Building and Scaling Successful Companies’, offering deeper insights into topics from companies that do not fit the established corporate nor start-up model.

“Zalando is still growing around 30% a year while employing 15.000 people – there are no lectures that cover companies of that size, that are still growing and are very dynamic in nature,” says Marco. “We have so many of these companies from WHU that have reached over 100 million euros in revenue and I thought it would be incredibly interesting for WHU students if each founder would deep-dive into one specific theme in the structured form of a lecture.”

WHU is one of only three European business schools that are the birthplace of unicorn founders (for example Zalando, HelloFresh, Home24, Audibene, and Lazada Group) and a vast number of other successful companies founded by WHU graduates. With such a prolific and burgeoning start-up ecosystem, it’s no wonder that WHU is renowned as an entrepreneurial hub in Europe with an ever-expanding network of innovators every year. “Successful alumni of this caliber and scope offering lectures to students, is just not something that has been done before in Germany,” says Marco. “Not only is it a structured course ending with a written exam, but students also have the opportunity to interact throughout, ask questions, and network with the founders at the end of each day.”

Subject matter covered during these lectures includes deeply practical knowledge such as ‘Building Relationships’ from Christian Gaiser, founder of kaufDA, ‘Managing Suppliers’ from Christoph Cordes, co-founder of Fashionforhome/Home24, or ‘Going Global’ from Dominik Richter, founder of HelloFresh. Throughout these nine lectures, each founder provides the academic context for each of their topics, the challenges they faced, and present solutions combined with scientific theory.

With over 50 students participating in the WHU Founder Lecture series from all of the three Master programs, each student benefited from the intense knowledge and experience offered by the founders, giving them insights into real-world methods to lay down the foundations for projected success. “This course provided exactly the type of experience I was looking for when I applied to WHU,” says Master in Entrepreneurship student Polina Alexandrova. “I was inspired by the WHU alumni network and you brought these people into the classroom. The key takeaway for many of the students was not to overlook entrepreneurship as a career after graduation. We found we could personally relate to the speakers, as they were not only WHU graduates, but were also in the same shoes as us once.”